Support promised as Martinez gears up for 2018 Winter Games
MANILA, Philippines – Even before the 2014 Winter Olympics officially wrapped up and well before the euphoria of his first Olympic experience wore off, Michael Christian Martinez was already setting his sights on his comeback in the 2018 Winter Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea.
As early as now, the Philippines' lone Winter Olympian has already been promised additional, if not full support by SM and the Philippine Skating Union throughout Martinez's 4-year buildup to the next edition of the Winter Olympics.
Hans Sy, President of SM Prime Holdings Inc., declared Sunday, February 23 at Martinez's homecoming press conference at Mall of Asia that SM is "fully prepared" to support Martinez in the coming years.
"All I can really say right now is SM is fully prepared to support them," he said in response to a query on whether SM, together with the help of the government, is willing to fund the 4-year buildup. "We will be checking on all the other details. But definitely the support will be there."
Sy added that SM has been "quietly supporting" Martinez for his campaign at Sochi 2014 and also added that they will "support them more."
"We took care of some of the expenses," he explained. "It may not be enough but at least we were very happy with what has happened to them (Martinez and his team) and I have assured them that we will support them more this time just to make sure that they really will bring in pride for the country."
Support from PH Skating Union, POC, PSC
In light of criticism the government has received for alleged lack of support for the 17-year old figure skater, Philippine Skating Union President Manuel Veguillas explained how support from the Skating Union, the Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) and the Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) has come into play for Martinez's Sochi stint.
According to him, the PSC shouldered expenses for Martinez's Olympics trip.
"Itong punta namin sa Olympics, palagay ko Philippine Sports Commission ang nagsu-support nito," he told the media. "Dahil ang project na ito ay project ng POC. Ang POC halos solely relies on the funding of government. So I'm sure kukuha sila diyan (PSC) and yan ang magbabayad ng mga ginasta namin papunta sa Olympics."
(Our trip to the Olympics, I believe, is supported by the Philippine Sports Commission. Because this project is a project of the POC. The POC mostly solely relies on the funding of the government. So I'm sure they will get from there and that will pay for our expenses going to the Olympics.)
Veguillas was with Martinez at Sochi, lending his support to the first Filipino representative at the Winter Games in 22 years.
He explained the role of the POC as the body who sources funds based on the Skating Union's requirements.
"Tinatanong sa amin ng POC kung ano ba mga gastos, ano ba mga kailangan, so ire-report namin itong mga requirements, so sila na magso-sourcing kasi responsibility nila magpadala ng athlete tsaka officials sa Olympics."
(The POC asks us what expenses we need, so we report the requirements, so they source because it is their responsibility to send an athlete and officials to the Olympics.)
Veguillas elaborated on the role of the Skating Union in supporting Martinez, saying that it is "getting enough support from SM," which is why they "opted not to get anymore from the government." He said they relied mostly on SM's support so that the funds can be distributed instead to other Filipino athletes who may need it more.
In addition, Veguillas stated that it was the Skating Union who paid for Martinez's coach.
"Yung coach ni Michael sinuportahan na yan ng mga $7,200. Yun ang bayad sa coach. Binayaran na ng Philippine Skating Union yon." (Michael's coach was supported with $7,200. That's the payment for the coach. The Philippine Skating Union paid for it.)
The government came under fire particularly when Martinez's mother, Maria Teresa Martinez, in an interview with the Catholic News Service was quoted as saying, "My house is mortgaged. It’s a crazy investment."
She was also quoted, "I don't even think anyone at the President's office knows there's a Filipino skating in the Olympics."
Teresa Martinez was asked to set the record straight regarding the house she allegedly mortgaged to aid in their skating expenses. She seemingly agreed to answer the question at first but eventually opted to decline after some discussion in the panel.
More than financial aid
As a young athlete, there is still much that Martinez must endure in order to fulfill his dream of bagging the Philippines' first Winter Olympics medal.
And according to his mother, Martinez also needs emotional and moral support, most especially during the rougher points of his career such as when he sustains injuries.
"Aside from financial support, ang kailangan nung bata is yung emotional and moral support, which is very important," Teresa Martinez said. "Marami siyang injuries pero dahil sa suporta namin, he continued skating, which is the sport that he loves." (Aside from financial support, what the child needs is emotional and moral support, which is very important. He had plenty of injuries, but because of our support, he continued skating, which is the sport he loves.)
For Martinez, the support of Filipinos and his family has been enough to go on even when he was far away from his home soil. During a rough patch in his free skate routine, that kind of intangible support got him through to do better for the rest of his routine.
"Yung una nagpro-program na ako, and when I'm performing from the start, iniisip ko I'm doing this for God, I'm doing this for my family, I'm doing this for my mother, I'm doing this for the country," explained Martinez. "Pero nung sumablay ako ng one jump, sabi ko 'No! This can't be! I have to push harder.' So that's why na-land ko yung second hardest jump."
(At first during the program, and when I'm performing from the start, I was thinking I'm doing this for God, I'm doing this for my family, I'm doing this for my mother, I'm doing this for the country. But when I made a mistake with one jump, I told myself 'No! This can't be! I have to push harder.' So that's why I was able to land the second hardest jump.)
A sweet homecoming
When Martinez left the country for the Winter Olympics, few people knew about him and his journey. There were no send-offs. Yet now, he returns to the Philippines to a sweet homecoming and with Filipinos recognizing his name.
As he arrived in Manila from Sochi, Russia on Sunday, he received a warm hero's welcome from his supporters - proof that Martinez is no longer a stranger to Filipinos.
Martinez's smile of appreciation and glee barely left his face the entire time he was speaking to the media and acknowledging his fans, even as he came from a long 30-hour flight.
If the teenage Olympian's face hurt from all the smiling, he showed no signs of it.
"I'm very happy and proud to compete in the Olympics and representing our country and making history for the Philippines."
Clearly overwhelmed by the attention and applause, Martinez was quick to deflect the credit.
"What I have done in Sochi is the same effort and commitment that our other athletes have done in the Summer Olympics. Nothing different," he declared. "I may be the first who made it into the Winter Olympics, but I'm not the first to represent our country in the world stage."
He added: "I am extremely happy with the hero's welcome, but let us not forget all our other athletes (who are also) heroes. I therefore share this honor and glory to all the Filipino athletes. Mabuhay ang mga Pilipino, mabuhay ang mga atleta!" (Long live Filipinos, long live the athletes!) – Rappler.com